Rob Kalin: The Weird Factor Behind Etsy.com

An army of 800,000 crafters has made Etsy a hot start-up: profitable, well capitalized, growing. Rob Kalin, its on-again, off-again founder, insists on Etsy's antiquated values.

What's the Latest Development?


Eighteen months after Rob Kalin asked his board of directors to reinstate him as C.E.O. of Esty, the website that hosts over 800,000 crafters' businesses, Kalin has again passed the torch, this time to one of his in-house engineers. After Kalin gave up the C.E.O. role in 2008, the company grew steadily but he worried the enterprise was abandoning its founding principles. He worried, too, that not enough attention was being paid to the sellers on the site, without which Etsy could not exist. When Kalin returned, he recited poetry and smashed coffee cups, but that revolution proved short lived. 

What's the Big Idea?

During Kalin's comeback, the Etsy sight became more social-networking friendly, allowing sellers to communicate with each other and buyers to find related goods based on what other customers were purchasing. But larger hurdles existed if Kalin's goal was to truly support his crafters' ability to create a sustainable business. One stipulation that remains at Etsy is that crafters may not factory-produce any of their goods; everything must be hand-made. This means labor-intensive hours and can force crafters to choose between getting paid fairly and selling their goods. 

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